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29 Things About Running A Website I Wish I Knew Beforehand

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

No one said running a website was easy.

In fact, running a website successfully may be one of the hardest things you ever do.

Depending on what statistics you go by, between 175 and 380 new websites are created every minute. That’s a lot of competition.

Even if you go back more than a decade, every two days humans were creating as much information as we did from the dawn of history up until 2003. That’s a staggering amount.

This creates an avalanche of content and information that you must overcome in order to reach your customers online.

That’s why I’m sharing 29 things I wish I knew about running a website that I didn’t know when I first started, over a decade ago.

1. Your content creation schedule is literally a second business.

Creating web content on a schedule is not easy to maintain over a long period of time. Many institutions fall into the trap of getting busy with other work, and fail to plan for regularly scheduled web marketing. I have fallen into this same scenario before too.

The truth is, the customers you get today were often “seeded” months or even years ago with content they found on your website, YouTube, or elsewhere online. Customers find you through the internet when you publish on a regular basis. The more content you publish, the more chances you have of acquiring new business. In my experience, publishing useful content on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to keep your marketing funnel full.

2. Your hosting provider has a huge impact on your business website.

One of the big factors in page speed is web hosting. If you have cheap hosting, chances are your website will load slowly. As we’ll discuss later, page speed is a ranking factor. Plus, it’s bad for user experience if users are waiting a long time for your website to load.

3. Most business websites fail because there is no marketing plan.

Most business owners know that they need a website for basic marketing purposes, but do not have a long term plan for attracting customers. Having a cohesive plan for drawing customers to your website, and converting them from a prospect into a lead is an essential marketing strategy.

4. The majority of businesses give up on their website too soon.

How many times have you seen business websites that have laid dormant for several years? Strong businesses proactively use their website as the central point of of their marketing plans. When businesses put little effort into their website and internet marketing, they are almost always missing out on potential customers. A 2021 report by Visual Objects shows that 76% of consumers look at the online presence of a business before physically visiting that business. If you aren’t investing in your website and other web properties, you’re leaving money on the table.

5. Email marketing is arguably as important, or more important than social media.

Email marketing campaigns have a typical open rate of 20-30%. Click-through rates on Facebook posts are about 6%, and click-through on tweets are about 0.5%. For comparison, clicks on links in email marketing campaigns is about 3%. Combine this with the fact that there are 3x as many email accounts as Facebook and Twitter accounts combined, and it makes a compelling argument that email marketing should not be ignored. (Note: It is our opinion that you should utilize both email marketing and social media in your overall marketing strategy. Your goal should be to reach potential customers wherever they are online, and both of these channels play their respective roles.)

6. Social media is still important.

One thing we preach incessantly is that small businesses should always strive to look the part of a big brand. Google has stated since 2008 that they want to rank companies that appear to be big brands, as that makes it easier to determine what sites to trust. One of the hallmark characteristics of big brands is they look for customer acquisition in many channels, including social media. Global brands usually have a presence on all the major social media platforms. We recommend that any business that is serious about SEO create branded social media accounts on the following: Facebook Page, LinkedIn Company Page, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. (Pinterest optional).

7. You cannot build an online empire by yourself.

Publishing content, improving your website, and managing your other internet marketing campaigns is a lot of work! Many businesses use outside agencies or hire in-house to help them with SEO, content, web development, and online marketing.

8. It is okay to ask for help with your website.

There’s nothing wrong with realizing that you need hep with your website. Although there are many tools that allows users to build their own website, the results are almost always better when left to professionals.

9. Would-be hackers scan every site on the planet on a regular basis.

There are many reports of sites being hacked, security breaches, password dumps, and other nefarious activity. The reality is, many “hacking” efforts are automated, and aim towards sites that are easily breached. Some people think the goal of hackers is to “deface” a website, but most hackers prefer to fly under the radar, and use your site for other purposes without your knowledge.

Most often, hackers breach websites through weak passwords or out-of-date software running on the site. Other attacks can occur, such as cross-site scripting, but the goal is usually to compromise the database and gain access. Soe hacks also use your computing resources to mine cryptocurrency. Some hackers insert hyperlinks to pharma or gambling sites to help boost SEO, gain access to other user passwords, or otherwise manipulate the site clandestinely. If you believe that your site has been hacked, do not attempt to clean up the site yourself, as there can be malicious code buried deep within the site, causing the hack to return. Contact a security professional service, such as Wordfence or Sucuri, to clean up the breach.

Please realize that many sites that have been hacked, the site owners are completely unaware, and the site may look normal for months or years. Real-life hackers want to remain undetected. Also note, hacking is usually done through automated programs that run on botnets, and do reconnaissance on multiple sites, looking for vulnerabilities they can exploit. Once vulnerable sites are identified, a brute force password attack, or another automated attack may begin.

Your website is one of millions that hackers attempt to breach everyday using automation. It is uncommon for hackers to single your site out for attack, it is one of many where malicious people attempt to exploit a commonly used password or other weakness.

10. When your website looks good, people think more highly of your business.

Have you ever heard that “Appearances influence perception”? When people see a well-designed website, they get a good impression of your business. The same goes when they see a work truck that is professionally wrapped, or they visit your facility or showroom, and it looks impeccable. Design is incredibly important to how people perceive your brand, and also important to SEO.

11. Almost no one looks at the image slider at the top of the home page except you and your team.

The image slider on your home page would be better as a banner (“hero image”) with a headline and call to action. The statistics say that users do not usually look at anything past the first image in the carousel. Many website owners want to have an image slider on the home page, because they see other websites do the same thing, and they believe they need to have that feature too. But in addition to making the page “heavier” and taking longer to load, there is statistically no reason to have more than one call to action at the top of the page.

In a 2013 study by Notre Dame, they found that out of 3.7 million visits to a home page with an image slider, only 1.07% of visitors clicked on a feature in the image slider. Of those, a whopping 89.1% of clicks were on the very first slide!

The truth is, the people designing the website, and the leadership team of your company are likely the only people paying attention to any information past the first slide in the image carousel on your web pages.

12. Optimizing a website for SEO is hard work.

SEO is easier when you are an established brand with a twenty year headstart on link building and content creation. When you are starting from scratch, you are building from the foundation up. There’s a lot of work to do.

Don’t get overwhelmed.

Realize that SEO will take time, it is a long term effort. But as long as you are working on SEO on your site, and outside of your website every week, eventually you will make tangible progress.

13. Many of your competitors are stuck in the past.

One thing that you have working to your advantage is some of your competitors are not as forward thinking as you are. Right now, you are here reading an article on improving your SEO and website presence. You’re already one step ahead of them.

It’s difficult to believe, but there are companies out there that don’t even have a website at all!

You’ll also find competitors that are trying to do SEO as if it was 2001 (keyword stuffing, spammy link building, etc.) Pay attention to the industry leaders in your space, and learn what you can from them instead. Aim high, and there’s no limit to what you can achieve with diligence, patience, and consistent effort.

14. What you say and how you say it are equally important.

Your words and messaging will always connect with some people, and not resonate with others. There are many people out there, and many companies that have different values, targets, and customer avatars. Figure out who your ideal customers are, what your company values are, and find a consistent message that rings true with both of those.

15. Defining your ideal customer is one of the hardest parts of running a website.

As your company evolves, you may find that your positioning needs to change. Perhaps who you served and what your services were in the past have changed to entirely different things in present day. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Things change, and sometimes it takes a while to figure out who your ideal customers are. When you have a clear target customer avatar defined, you can tailor your website messaging to fit their needs. (Note: I have found it useful in the past to find a specific person who is an ideal customer, and write your website messaging as if you are speaking to them directly. Try it!)

16. Many businesses don’t know who to trust to help them with their online marketing.

If you’re new to digital marketing, it may be difficult to discern who to choose. Take your time, ask questions, and get a second opinion when hiring a web agency. Be aware that the more experience and overhead a digital agency has, the more they are likely to charge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Agencies that have a track record of client success will be able to guide you to similar success.

17. Building a solid brand is one of the most important things you can do for your SEO.

Do people seek out your brand by name? Building a destination brand that customers equate with excellence is a worth, but ambitious goal. Your brand reputation is one of your most valuable assets.

18. Page speed makes a big difference for your rankings and conversions.

There are many ways to build a website. Not all of those methods create a website that loads quickly. Modern web users are accustomed to websites that load fast, and they dislike websites that load slowly. Google has stated that page speed is a SEO ranking factor. Get with a web developer before you start building your website, and they can help you build a site that load quickly and converts customers.

19. Business owners have more knowledge to share than they realize.

The greatest asset a company has is the earned institutional knowledge of the owners and leadership team. Finding a way to convey this knowledge through a website, instead of face-to-face, is the surest way to scale messaging, and demonstrate company expertise. This is one of the most crucial tasks for any aspiring web agency.

20. You need to make things crystal-clear for your customers, and remove all ambiguity.

Clarity is better than ambiguity. Less words are better. Make your message clear. People scan headlines. They think quickly. Get to the point. Cut the fluff.

21. Design without valuable content inside is sound and fury signifying nothing.

Many web redesigns begin with visual design, and no content. This is backwards from how we believe a successful redesign project should be managed. Getting as much content as possible before the website redesign allows the web agency to work with the real content, and create a design that works within constraints. Any discrepancies or flaws in a design will be exposed sooner rather than later. Content length and messaging can be adjusted to make the design and content work together in cohesive harmony. This creates a stronger overall message, as design is a conduit for the content, not the other way around.

22. Content is the hardest part of building any website.

The number one thing that most business owners have a difficult time with is creating content for their website. Ironically, this is also the most important part of SEO. The businesses we work with usually have decades of institutional knowledge, but getting that knowledge into words, and putting it on a website seems to be a challenge. If you can overcome this hurdle, and publish content consistently, you will be successful with SEO.

23. Very few people understand the value of back links.

Hyperlinks from other websites to your website help your SEO, particularly from websites within your industry. Many business owners or Operations Managers do not realize the power that a strong back link profile has on a website’s search rankings. Work diligently and strategically to earn back links and you’ll do well with SEO.

24. Fine-tuning the last 10% of anything on your website takes a long time.

Getting started with an idea or creative work, like a website, is easy. Finishing and putting the last bits of polish on, that can be difficult. Attention to detail is something that people notice, so make the effort to follow through.

25. Typography is the second-most overlooked part of web design.

In 2006, Oliver Reichenstein wrote that typography is 95% of good web design. This was one of the first articles I ever read on web design, and it is as true today as it was then. Make your design legible and beautiful, even when it is reduced to only words on the page. Wise advice.

26. Accessibility is the most overlooked part of web development.

Web accessibility is a set of standards, practices, and regulations around designing for all web users who have some form of impairment. While many people think of screen readers for the visually impaired, accessibility also extends to mobility impairment, hearing impairment, and more. The benefits from considering accessibility from the beginning in web design have tangible benefits for users who may not have any impairments whatsoever. Leaving out a large subset of your user base is bad design, and designing for everyone is simpler than you may think, if you know the standards. It’s worth the effort.

27. The ability to learn is the most valuable skill a web professional will ever have.

Technology and web development are continually evolving. If you can learn new things, and have an aptitude for picking up new web development skills, you might have a bright future as a web developer. Staying up to date on best practices is crucial to optimizing your website for speed and performance.

28. Persistence pays off.

49.7% of businesses in the US don’t make it ppast the five year mark. Hanging in there and making continual, incremental improvements to your website can help get you past this critical juncture.

29. Websites are never done.

Whether it’s adding content, upgrading a design, making performance improvements, or working on conversion rate optimization, you’re never done working on your website. Your competitors are busy making improvements, and they aren’t resting. Your company can’t afford to relax either.

Need Help with Your Website?

If you’re stuck with your website and need help with SEO, contact the team at Lockedown SEO. We’ve helped businesses across the country improve their website and their organic search traffic.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

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